Academic Library Budgets 101
Instructor: Tracey Leger-Hornby
Dates: April 1st through 26th, 2019
Credits: 1.5 CEUs or 15 PDHs
Every library, at some level, faces pressure to justify and skillfully manage budgets while costs for simply keeping the same level of resources and services steadily rise. The issues and challenges facing libraries are complex and are sometimes misunderstood by librarians themselves as well as administrators and faculty. Simplistic solutions such as moving to fully digital collections or reducing staff are not the answer. Developing effective library budgets involves not only “crunching the budget numbers,” but understanding how the money is spent, where the money comes from, and projecting the impact of future trends in the industry. Successful library budget management involves a balance between careful planning, data gathering, and documentation as well as creativity, informed risk taking, and solid analysis.
This introductory course provides background information on the vocabulary of budgets, identifies sources of data to create a strong proposal for ongoing and new expenses, and reviews some techniques for documenting budget activities for operational and planning purposes. Librarians and others taking the course will become familiar with standard elements of an operational budget and learn ways to expand critical data into planning tools.
Desired outcomes: Students will be able to describe the basic steps in a standard budget cycle, know the standard components in a budget, and create a simple budget and rationale for a library program or project.
Overarching goals, big ideas: Understanding how the library budget fits together within the department and within the larger institutional financial structure is essential. Learning how to assemble data and details for a simple budget will be emphasized.
Overarching questions: How are budgets created and used in an academic library? How does the library budget fit into the bigger financial picture in a college or university. How are budgets used day to day in an academic library?
Weekly Lesson Plans:
- Week 1: Lesson that describes the elements of a library budget and how it fits into the larger picture. Provide a review of budget processes and typical timing. Readings for the week include background on the topic of budgets with specific articles on current issues and methods in libraries. Student activities include sharing budget experiences, questions, and goals for the class.
- Week 2: Lesson begins with an overview of spreadsheets and tips for using with library budgets. Readings include web sites from different sources on budget processes and operational details for managing a budget within an organization. Student activities include creating a sample spreadsheet, identifying local budget practices within their current environment. Students will include completing an interview with a budget manager within their organization on the key issues facing their library and share thoughts about how to manage them with the group.
- Week 3: The course continues with scenarios for creating budgets and additional readings on methods for allocating resources, particular emphasis on collections and infrastructure. The readings include annual publishing and systems reviews/projections by leading analysts (i.e. Marshall Breeding). Students will draft a sample budget proposal for one area of a library budget (Systems, electronic resources, staff development, new initiative grant request, etc.) of interest to them. Feedback from other students and instructor will be part of the activity.
- Week 4: The final course week includes wrap up of key concepts and shared exercise in dealing with unexpected budget reductions. Readings on innovations in libraries to address loss of budgets/funding will be included and reflections on the feasibility of the innovations discussed. Students will be asked to take the budget proposal they created in Week 3 and cut 10% (or other amount TBD) mid-cycle (after a certain amount has already be spent) as an exercise in “real life” budget management. The group will be asked to comment on peer submissions and offer feedback.
Tracey Leger-Hornby is an independent consultant with over 30 years of leadership and expertise in libraries and technology primarily in higher education. Her previous positions include Dean of Library Services at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Associate CIO at Brandeis University, Library Director at Rivier University, and several positions in the library and academic technology at Simmons College. Recently, as a consultant, Tracey served as interim Head Librarian at the Worcester Public Library and Interim Director of Research and Instruction at Wheaton College. She is currently working with the Massachusetts Library Association on their long-term strategic plan. Her interests include library management issues, application of new technology in libraries, and business process improvement. In addition, Tracey has long-term leadership and active involvement in regional and national library and technology profession organizations. Interview with Tracey Leger-Hornby
This is an online class that is taught asynchronously, meaning that participants do the work on their own time as their schedules allow. The class does not meet together at any particular times, although the instructor may set up optional sychronous chat sessions. Instruction includes readings and assignments in one-week segments. Class participation is in an online forum environment.
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